So Long, Status Quo: Reinventing Healthcare Field Sales
Virtually every job on the planet requires some degree of human interaction. For healthcare field sales representatives, the ability to interact—to meet one-on-one with providers, to provide critical study data, to share information on patient assistance programs and samples—is at the heart of all they do.
But as COVID-19 shut down one corner of the globe after another, field sales reps lost access to the field itself. Email went from necessary to mission critical, with Zoom calls replacing face-to-face meetings for the foreseeable future. And the numbers don’t lie: In-person visits by healthcare sales reps to providers have more than halved since the start of the year. Digital outreach, on the other hand, continues to skyrocket, though the efficacy of an entirely remote healthcare sales model remains to be seen.
This brave new business world could easily be viewed as a burden on sales reps and the providers they seek to reach, but it’s also rife with opportunity. By reevaluating the role of healthcare field reps, reimagining the strategies they adhere to, and reemerging with a customer-centric culture, organizations can establish a new framework for connecting with the right audience in the right way to deliver lasting value.
The time to reinvent healthcare field sales is now. Here are five key steps to help kickstart the process:
- Reach the Right Audience to Maximize Your Time
Now that field reps are no longer hustling back and forth between sales meetings and dinners with customers, they likely have some extra time on their hands. That’s not to say these reps are sitting at home twiddling their thumbs, but the reality is that the hours they’d typically spend traveling to meet with providers can and should be reallocated to other tasks.
One productive way to utilize this newfound time is to spend it formulating your digital engagement strategy. Begin by analyzing and segmenting historical customer data to reflect customer preferences around technology and digital enablement tactics. Through empathetic research and a true understanding of the customer’s new day-to-day, sales reps can collect and enter data that signals how customers would like to be engaged in the future. These insights should be shared with marketing leaders so that customizations and adjustments to existing tools, such as Veeva Engage, are accurately captured.
While tidying up CRM data isn’t the most glamorous job, re-profiling customers to ensure you’re targeting the right contacts will help you tailor future interactions to create better, more personalized conversations.
- Test What Works and What Doesn’t
In order to improve interactions with your customers, it’s important to understand how they prefer to communicate—this is where all of your previous customer segmenting and re-profiling handiwork comes in. Put these insights to the test by piloting new interaction strategies and engagement solutions. For example, some healthcare companies are sending drug samples directly to patients at their provider’s request rather than dropping them off at doctors’ offices. Others are testing augmented reality (AR) capabilities instead of jumping straight to Zoom or Veeva.
When forming teams of reps to test new capabilities, it’s important to foster a safe environment that empowers individuals to take some risks and be creative. By testing new engagement tools, both digital and non-digital, you can find ways to bring long-term value to your customer partnerships.
- Rethink Marketing’s Role
Once field sales reps have gathered customer information (step one) and translated that data into pilots for testing (step two), they can collaborate with their counterparts in marketing to ensure they are properly aligned. Although marketers and sales reps don’t often get the chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder, they should take this opportunity to coordinate their efforts and work toward a common goal. Finding ways to integrate your marketing mix with sales activities may be easier said than done, but with a carefully designed process for sharing data from the front office to the back office, you can prevent silos and, in turn, promote a more collaborative environment.
- Define New Ways of Working
Culture is a critical yet elusive aspect of any organization, and it can also be one of the most difficult things to transform. Prepare your reps and sales teams for changes on the horizon and help them redefine how they work, both internally and with providers. Consider structuring a comprehensive change management strategy, complete with leadership buy-in, to make the transition to your company’s “new normal” a seamless (and relatively painless) one.
This is a crucial step for all companies, but especially for those who aspire to adopt a more customer-centric culture. As individual teams start to demonstrate customer-centric behaviors, it’s the task of leadership to take those mindset and behavioral shifts and scale them across the organization.
- Reimagine the Future of Field Sales
The role of a sales rep is, to a certain extent, independent. It’s this freedom that allows reps to form personal relationships with their customers so they can understand and begin to anticipate their needs. And while field reps will always operate in an autonomous capacity, it’s important now more than ever for them to reimagine how they work and who they work with. As previously mentioned, marketing should be at the top of this list, as well as other key decision-makers in leadership positions. Whoever the particular partner may be, any and all future sales partnerships should share one common objective: to better serve patients.
As we look to the weeks and months ahead, it’s clear we won’t be returning to business as usual anytime soon. While we’ve collectively managed to keep our heads above water, much of the difficult work is yet to be done. Taking field reps out of the field was the easy part—redeploying them in ways that benefit your organization and the customers you serve without causing disruption will be a bigger challenge.